Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection

Irish Despard Origins

In autumn 1689 the English parliament brought in ‘An Act for prohibiting all trade and commerce with France’ which provided (amongst other things) ‘that from the 24th August 1689 no French wines, brandy, linen, silks, salt, paper or any other goods or commodities whatsoever, of the growth, product or manufacture of any of the dominions or territories of the French King should during or within the term of three years, to be accounted from the said 24th day of August, or at any time or times before the end of the first session of parliament next after the expiration of the said three years be brought in by land or imported in any ship or ships, vessel or vessels whatsoever, into any port, haven, creek or other place whatsoever in the Kingdoms of England or Ireland, the Dominion of Wales or Town of Berwick-on-Tweed, or the Isles of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark or Isle of Man from any place or port whatsoever, either mixt or unmixt with any commodity of the growth or product of any other nation, place or country whatsoever…..’ – So in essence, all such goods would be forfeit and destroyed and the ships taken for his Majesty’s navy and those involved imprisoned. In January 1690 there was an amending act to include salt specifically. (This also meant that the normal routes for gaining intelligence on foreign naval and troop movements had been closed.)

John Despard must have had both courage and intelligence. He must also have been well financed. Ships and cargoes were expensive investments. If he really was a committed Protestant, then the dominant local Catholics must have been accomodated in a successful manner. That cannot have been easy. Perhaps access to smuggled goods was enough to serve this purpose.

I quote a letter from the State Papers – 10 April 1694 Dublin Castle – The Lords Justices of Ireland to Sir John Trenchard (he succeeded Nottingham as Secretary of State) – ‘…..The town of Bantry is seated in the bottom of a large and well frequented bay and in the borders of Bearhaven, Glanaroghty and Muskerry, where for nearly twenty miles there are no protestant inhabitants. This is a den of Tories who molest the country round about here; the Popish natives harbour them, and, corresponding with the French privateers, betray to them merchant ships, so that within these two years above twenty ships have been taken from thence by the privateers…….



  1. Please don’t publish my name or email. I have not read everything here, so perhaps I missed this information, but the reason that the Despards in Ireland are traced only to the date you mention is that the family, as Huguenots had fled to Ireland from France after The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

    1. Thank you for that. However – from 1572 until 1692 there are no records showing the use of the Despard or d’Espard names in either Ireland or England. There are no records of the use of that name in France before that date. Balzac, writing in circa 1840 used that name in a coded fashion which I analyse in my article.

Add comment

4 + = 5

Please note that your comment will be reviewed and may be edited before being published.